By T. Roble
A section of lawmakers booed and jeered at President Mohamed Farmaajo Saturday as he rose to address the last session of the 11th Parliament during its official opening pushing for a universal vote in the upcoming polls.
The lawmakers blew whistles and chanted calling the President a failure as he attempted to calm them down. It took the intervention of the Speakers of both Houses to calm down the lawmakers who later kept their cool to allow the President to proceed.
In his address to the joint seating of the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament, President Farmaajo prosecuted an ambitious case for universal elections in the country even as time and a number of factors work against such a milestone.
NO MORE CLAN-BASED POLLS
Noting that the upcoming elections will be different from the previous ones, the President said time for elections based on clan lines and bloodshed were over in Somalia and called on Somalis to turn out in large numbers to vote.
“You (Parliament) have passed the Elections Bill which I have even assented to and I can assure you that this country will no longer hold elections based on clans or bloodshed,” the President said.
“We are heading to elections where every citizen will be able to vote and elect their favorite candidate and political party,” the head of state said as he delivered his final address to the joint session of the Federal Parliament ahead of elections later in the year.
The President sounded upbeat elections will be held on a one-person-one-vote basis and called for mass turn out even as the chances of a universal vote thin out amid insufficient preparations and humanitarian crises.
The UN warned last week of the triple threat of COVID-19, locust invasion and floods which they noted risked eroding gains made thus far and tantamount to political and economic instability. Over 500,000 people have been displaced in central Somalia in recent weeks while the FAO has warned the second wave of locusts will be up to 400 times more than last year’s.
Parliament is expected to deliberate on contentious issues in the Elections Bill including women quota, delimitation of boundaries and constituencies before the National Independent Election Commission (NIEC) announces the election dates.
NIEC chairperson Halima Yarey is expected to address Parliament on June 27 when she will be announcing the election dates. The EU has already filed disappointment over the delay to announce the election dates which was to be on May 27.
“The EU in Somalia expresses concern at any possible repercussion the new date of NIEC’s appearance before Parliament may have on timely elections,” EU ambassador to Somalia Nicolas Berlanga said in a tweet last week.
Critical also for Parliament will be amendment of the Political Parties Act to align it with the Elections Act as the country gears up for multiparty elections after over half a century.
But a universal vote in Somalia, should it be practicable this year will require not just parliamentary endorsement but a buy-in from Federal Member State leaders. Puntland and Jubbaland maintain a wide berth with the Federal Parliament both of which have perpetuated an antagonistic relation since Farmaajo came to office in 2017.
Since the FMS contain the bulk of the electorate and will be critical in providing the much-needed fulcrum for the electoral body to conduct any meaningful exercise, President Farmaajo must, if he is focused on a universal poll, reach out to the FMS leaders within the shortest time possible.
Prime Minister Hassan Khaire also expressed optimism last week and called on the Executive to focus on delivering a universal vote. With the Federal leaders seemingly reading from the same script with such pronouncements, similar voices from the regions are sorely needed for a universal vote.